EXPEDITION BRIEFING & FORMS
Mexican Mangroves and Wildlife
Jerry Keir Juan Francisco Castellanos Avila
Great Basin Institute, University of Nevada, Reno Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur
Dr. Sudeep Chandra Dr. Kai Raines
University of Nevada, Reno University of South Florida
Dr. Mark Raines Dr. Michael Paul Marchetti
University of South Florida California State University, Chico
Dr. Zeb Hogan
University of Nevada, Reno
Mexican Mangroves and
Team I: January 5 – January 13, 2007
Team II: March 17 – March 25, 2007
Team III: June 3 – June 11, 2007
Team IV: July 2 – July 10, 2007
Team V: November 29 – December 7, 2007
Greetings Earthwatch Volunteers,
Welcome to the Mexican Mangroves and Wildlife expedition! Congratulations on selecting to
participate in one of the most exciting Earthwatch research endeavors in the Americas. As Project
Director, I wish to formally welcome you to our bilateral initiative, a project that has been in
development over the past three years.
The genesis of this project began in the year 2000, when I began teaching university field courses
in La Manzanilla, Jalisco, focusing on coastal and interior natural resource issues. Over the years,
these environmental studies courses have led to a more sustained commitment to not only
educating students on the issues facing Mexican conservation, but also to making lasting
contributions to the scientific understanding of this unique and fragile place. To that end, we
have established a lasting collaborative with numerous Mexican partners, from premier wildlife
biologists to dedicated environmental educators, as together we begin to address the many
environmental challenges this coastal community now faces.
Your role in this partnership is an important step toward addressing these ecological challenges.
By assisting with biological inventories, developing educational materials and restoring
imperiled mangroves, your participation will further our efforts in establishing this innovative
ecosystem-wide project as a flagship program for coastal environmental research, education and
Thank you for your interest in our project. I look forward to meeting you on the sunny beaches of
Jerry Keir, Director
Great Basin Institute
University of Nevada, Reno
Mexican Mangroves and Wildlife
Table of Contents
THE EXPEDITION ...........................................................................................................................................4
1. PROJECT OVERVIEW ....................................................................................................................................4
2. RESEARCH AREA .........................................................................................................................................5
3. PROJECT STAFF ............................................................................................................................................6
DAILY LIFE IN THE FIELD...........................................................................................................................9
4. VOLUNTEER TRAINING AND ASSIGNMENTS .................................................................................................9
5. TEAM ITINERARY .......................................................................................................................................10
6. DAILY SCHEDULE AND TASKS ...................................................................................................................11
7. ACCOMMODATIONS ...................................................................................................................................11
8. FOOD .........................................................................................................................................................12
TRAVEL PLANNING .....................................................................................................................................13
9. BEFORE YOU LEAVE .................................................................................................................................13
10. PROJECT CONDITIONS ..............................................................................................................................16
11. HEALTH INFORMATION ............................................................................................................................19
12. PACKING CONSIDERATIONS .....................................................................................................................20
13. RECOMMENDED READING........................................................................................................................20
14. EMERGENCIES IN THE FIELD ....................................................................................................................21
15. HELPFUL RESOURCES ..............................................................................................................................21
THE RESEARCH ............................................................................................................................................24
16. BACKGROUND, OBJECTIVES AND METHODS ............................................................................................24
17. RESULTS AND OPPORTUNITIES .................................................................................................................29
18. LITERATURE CITED ..................................................................................................................................30
EXPEDITION PACKING CHECKLIST ......................................................................................................31
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: 1) Jerry Keir
2) Juan Francisco Castellanos Avila
3) Dr. Sudeep Chandra
4) Dr. Mark Raines
5) Dr. Kai Raines
6) Dr. Michael Paul Marchetti
7) Dr. Zeb Hogan
POSITION / TITLE: 1) Project Director
2) Latin America Research Coordinator
3) Assistant Professor of Limnology
4) Assistant Professor of Ecohydrology
6) Associate Professor of Biology
7) Post-Doctoral Fellow
AFFILIATION: 1) Great Basin Institute, University of Nevada,
2) Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur
3) University of Nevada, Reno
4) University of South Florida
5) University of South Florida
6) California State University, Chico
7) University of Nevada, Reno
PROJECT TITLE: Mexican Mangroves and Wildlife
RESEARCH SITE: La Manzanilla, central Pacific coast of Mexico
TEAM DATES IN FIELD: Team I: January 5 – January 13, 2007
Team II: March 17 – March 25, 2007
Team III: June 3 – June 11, 2007
Team IV: July 2 – July 10, 2007
Team V: November 29 – December 7, 2007
TEAM LENGTH: 9 days
TEAM SIZE: Minimum: 6 Maximum: 12
MINIMUM AGE OF PARTICIPATION: 18 years of age *
* It may be possible for 16- and 17-year-olds to participate if accompanied by a parent or
guardian. Contact Earthwatch for more information and see Section 9 ‘Before You Leave’ for
traveling advice for minors.
1. PROJECT OVERVIEW
“This is not a sanitized holiday but a unique adventure…where you can learn new skills, experience exotic
wildlife and locations, meet interesting people and get the satisfaction that you are actually doing
something positive for conservation.”
~ Robert Grew, Team II, March 2005
The wetlands that line a large part (1,567,300 hectares) of the Mexican coast are rich in biological
diversity. Mangrove ecosystems in particular are known to be important rearing grounds for
marine fishes and provide important habitat for migratory and endemic bird species, reptiles,
and small mammals. On the Costa Alegre of the Mexican Pacific, mangroves are the dominant
coastal wetland and are home to the largest populations of American crocodiles in Mexico.
Previous investigations conducted in Tanacatita Bay have shown the importance of these
mangroves as habitat for many different species.
The support of Earthwatch volunteers like you makes it possible to collect essential data on the
mangroves themselves as well as the species inhabiting them. Similar to other mangrove
ecosystems worldwide, both direct (e.g. habitat modification) and indirect (e.g. climate change)
human influences are altering the biology and function of these ecosystems. During the last three
years of Earthwatch-sponsored research, critical information was collected describing the
disturbances caused to La Manzanilla mangrove. La Manzanilla is close to the city and
structurally different than the previously studied Tenacatita mangrove, which has permanent
surface water connections between the mangrove and the ocean. In the past year, the city of La
Manzanilla has initiated a program that would input wastewater discharge into La Manzanilla
mangrove. Wastewater contains higher concentrations of nutrients which can alter ecosystem
structure and species composition, particularly in systems that do not flush regularly like La
Though the human influences affecting La Manzanilla are significant, this project works under
the belief that it is in the early stages of change and that the time to act is now. It is essential to
determine the conditions of the mangrove prior to major alterations, to predict future impacts,
and to develop a natural resource management plan for the lower watershed. This project seeks
to explore the basic ecological interactions taking place within each mangrove through an
ecosystem-based approach and to assess the importance of the mangrove to the local community.
2. RESEARCH AREA
As a participant on the Mexican Mangroves and Wildlife expedition you will live and work in a
comfortable tropical setting. La Manzanilla is a small fishing, farming and tourist destination on
the relatively undeveloped Tenacatita Bay, which is one of the four major bays of the southern
coast of Jalisco, referred to as the Costa Alegre. With its biological diversity and protected bays,
the Costa Alegre offers vast opportunities for ecotourism.
The project’s study area, the Jaliscan Tropical Dry Forest, is rich in aquatic and terrestrial
biodiversity and is most notable for its phenomenal rate of endemism – 112 plants and 84
vertebrates (mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds) that are endemic to Mexico. Vegetation in
the area, encompassing over 1,200 species, is dominated by deciduous forest, which includes
botoncillo, flor de mayo and majahua, among others. Other species found within the forest
overstory are cacti such as the nopal and organo. Within the semi-deciduous forest one can find
the mojote, which produces a nut used to make a flavorful coffee. The papelillo can be found in
the more humid valleys and waterways, where the trees and lianas grow taller. In other areas,
palm, such the coyaco palm, and manzanilla trees dominate.
Wildlife diversity in the area is most noted by its 270 birds species (22 of which are endemic to
Mexico), which include the boat-billed heron, common potoo, orange-fronted parakeet and the
yellow-headed parrot. There are also 70 species of mammals, 69 of reptiles, and 19 of amphibians.
The ocelot, the jaguar, the greater fishing bat and the endemic pygmy skunk are just some of the
many mammals in the region. The boa constrictor and the nine-banded armadillo are examples of
reptiles and the green tree-frog is an example of an amphibian found along the Costa Alegre.
Within the marine environment, rocky coral reefs span much of the Costa Alegre, including
several within Tenacatita Bay. Elegant coral and green coral growing on igneous rock make up
the structure of these reefs, which harbor a number of tropical fish including Moorish idols,
Guineafowl puffers, king angelfish, yellowtail surgeonfish and three-banded butterfly fish. Other
marine organisms call these reefs home as well, such as the tiger snake eel, spotted eagle ray and
the Olive Ridley sea turtle, the latter of which is the prominent species of sea turtle on the Costa
Alegre and one with which you may have some contact through local conservation and turtle
The beaches, mangroves and rocky reefs of Tenacatita Bay are excellent sites for the walking,
birding, sea kayaking and snorkeling activities integrated into this research project. For
volunteers who choose to stay in the area before or after the Earthwatch expedition, equipment
rentals and guided ecotourism activities can be arranged. Hiking, biking, diving, surfing, sailing
and fishing are among the available activities along the coast. Nearby attractions include the
Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve, Sierra Manantlán Biosphere Reserve and the Aldea
Cutzmalan Organic Farm, with whom the project staff have collaborated during previous
university field study courses.
The cultural climate of La Manzanilla is typical of emergent Mexican coastal towns. As tourism
comprises a large portion of the local economy, the people of this region (approximately 1,500)
are welcoming and supportive of foreign visitors. Some local merchants speak English, but many
do not. La Manzanilla is predominately politically conservative and devoutly Catholic. However,
the local population is more than willing to engage foreigners in cultural and political
3. PROJECT STAFF
Jerry Keir, 40 years old, is a Ph.D. candidate in the Environmental Studies program at the
University of Nevada, Reno. He is the co-founder and Director of the Great Basin Institute and
for the past eight years has taught environmental field study courses throughout the
Intermountain West and Mexico. As a project leader for numerous restoration projects, Jerry will
coordinate activities for Earthwatch volunteers and will assist with the translation of natural
history information for environmental education training manuals and workshops. He will be
present for a portion of each expedition.
Juan Francisco “Paco” Castellanos Avila, 40 years old, earned his M.S. degree at the Universidad
Autónoma de Baja California Sur. He is the project’s marine biology and ecology of recreation
expert and will be assisting with both terrestrial and aquatic studies. A previous Director of the
National Outdoor Leadership School in Baja California, Paco brings considerable experience in
outdoor education and coordinating and implementing field studies with land managers,
university students and professors throughout Mexico and Chile. He will be present for all of the
Dr. Sudeep Chandra, 32 years old, is an Assistant Professor of Limnology at the University of
Nevada, Reno. Recently named Teacher of the Year for his college, he has had extensive
experience educating people on environmental issues. He graduated in 2003 with a Ph.D. in
Ecology from the University of California, Davis, and conducted post-doctoral research at the
Center for Limnology, University of Wisconsin, Madison. An advocate of the conservation of
freshwater resources, Sudeep recently became an advisor to the Paiute tribe of Pyramid Lake
(US) as they try to restore the cutthroat trout and the endangered cuiui. His studies of freshwater
resources also brought him to Lake Baikal in Russia, where he was funded by the Royal
Geographic Society and 10,000 Years Institute to research contaminant loading. For four years he
worked with the Tahoe Research Group and the Tahoe-Baikal Institute to develop a research
program investigating the impacts of mining on the water quality and fisheries habitat in Eastern
Mongolian rivers. Currently Sudeep is co-leading a project researching the ecology of the world’s
largest salmon to develop a sustainable resource management plan for this species. For the
Mexican Mangroves and Wildlife project, Sudeep will be responsible for the study on the effects of
plants and aquatic invertebrates on fisheries and crocodiles and the study on food web structure.
He will co-manage the study on community perceptions of the mangrove and wastewater
treatment, and the study on crocodile population dynamics. He will be present for Teams I
(January), II (March) and III (June).
Dr. Mark Rains, 39 years old, is an Assistant Professor of Ecohydrology in the Department of
Geology at the University of South Florida. He has an interdisciplinary educational background,
with a B.A. in Ecology, an M.S. in Forestry, and a Ph.D. in Hydrogeology. He teaches a variety of
lecture, laboratory, and field courses in the hydrologic sciences, including courses which address
the interactions between hydrology, geomorphology, ecology, and the human environment.
Mark conducts research on the relationships between surface water, shallow groundwater, and
ecosystem structure and function in wetland, river, estuary, and nearshore marine ecosystems.
His current studies include mangrove systems, vernal pool wetlands, river systems in peninsular
Florida, and clay settling areas in the phosphate mining district of Florida, among other research
projects. For the Earthwatch project, Mark will be responsible for the study on hydrologic and
chemical processes in the mangrove, and will co-manage the studies on historical changes in
mangrove distribution and vegetation and soil dynamics. He will be present for Teams I
(January) and III (June).
Dr. Kai Rains, 39 years old, is an Instructor in the Department of Environmental Science and
Policy at the University of South Florida. She has a B.S. in Biochemistry/Biophysics, an M.S. in
Botany, and a Ph.D. in Ecology. She teaches a variety of lecture, laboratory, and field courses,
including courses on wetland ecology and plant identification. Kai’s primary research focus is on
the interface between nutrient cycling and plant ecology. Differences among the way plants get
their nutrients influence competition between plant species and therefore the makeup of plant
species across landscapes. Traditional plant competition experiments have generally neglected
the fungi which naturally occupy roots of almost all plants and highly influence how they get
their nutrients. Her research is correcting this oversight by showing that root-fungi associations
play important roles in nutrient dynamics and associated plant species competition and
composition in wetland, terrestrial, and tree canopy ecosystems. Her secondary and more recent
research focus is on using Global Information Systems (GIS) in mapping ecosystems. Kai is fluent
in Spanish and has lived, studied, and taught extensively in Central and South America. She will
be responsible for the Mexican Mangroves and Wildlife study on historical changes in mangrove
distribution and the study on vegetation and soil dynamics. She will be present for Teams I
(January) and III (June).
Dr. Michael P. Marchetti, 38 years old, is an Associate Professor of Biology at California State
University, Chico. He is an interdisciplinary aquatic ecologist and conservation biologist with
degrees from Bucknell University (B.A. Biology/B.A. Chemistry) and the University of
California, Davis (M.S. and Ph.D. Ecology). Michael currently teaches courses in ichthyology,
aquatic ecology, conservation biology, community ecology and field ecology. He has over 16
years’ experience working extensively on the ecology and conservation of freshwater ecosystems,
primarily in the Central Valley of California. His general research interests include the ecology
and conservation of native aquatic organisms, invasion ecology and the role of hydrology in fish
conservation. Michael is currently conducting a variety of studies, such as landscape level
patterns of fish invasions, the assembly of aquatic insect communities following wetland
restoration, and the ecological impact of non-native bullfrogs on the native yellow-legged frog,
among many others. He leads an active research lab with a number of undergraduate and
graduate students working on a diverse array of aquatic ecology and conservation projects. He
has authored or co-authored 19 peer-reviewed scientific papers/book chapters and is currently
co-author of the new textbook Invasion Ecology (Blackwell Press). He will co-manage the
Earthwatch study on fish and fishing and the study on crocodile population dynamics. Michael
will be present for Teams I (January) and III (June).
Dr. Zeb Hogan, 35 years old, earned an undergraduate degree in Ecology and Evolutionary
Biology from the University of Arizona. He later became a visiting Fulbright student at the
Environmental Risk Assessment Program at Thailand’s Chiang Mai University. Returning to the
United States, Hogan completed a National Science Foundation-sponsored Ph.D. in Ecology at
the University of California, Davis. He is currently a fellow at the University of Wisconsin and a
World Wildlife Fund fellow. Zeb now leads a new National Geographic Society project to
identify and protect the world’s largest freshwater fishes. For the Earthwatch project, he will co-
manage the study on fish and fishing and the study on community perceptions of the mangrove
and wastewater treatment. He will be present for Teams I (January) and III (June).
For detailed descriptions of the various studies led by the Principal Investigators, see Section 16
‘Background, Objectives and Methods.’
Dr. Donald “Don” A. Rodriguez is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and
Resource Management at California State University, Channel Islands. Before joining that
university, Don served as the Director of Environmental Studies for Colorado State University
while holding a joint faculty appointment in the Department of Natural Resource Recreation and
Tourism. He has a B.S. in Wildlife Zoology from San Jose State University, an M.S. in
Environmental Education from California State University, Hayward, and a Ph.D. in the Human
Dimensions of Natural Resource Management from Colorado State University. He has taught all
aspects of park and protected area management including courses in park management
principles, planning, and management practices. He will visit Team II (March) to assist with
protected area management planning.
Dr. Brad Monsma is a natural history researcher with California State University, Channel
Islands. He earned his Ph.D. in English and American Literature at the University of Southern
California and has published articles on multicultural literary theory, cross-cultural reading,
religious identity, rock art, and the history of bears in Southern California. Brad has also written
The Sespe Wild: Southern California’s Last Free River (University of Nevada Press), the first work of
literary nonfiction about Ventura County‘s magnificent backcountry. Prior to working at CSU,
Channel Islands, he was a Professor of English at Woodbury University where for 10 years he
taught literature, writing, and a field-based, team-taught course called “California Natural
History and Nature Writing.” He will visit Team II (March) to assist with natural history
Davison “Dave” Collins is the Director of Immersion Adventures, an ecotourism organization
committed to providing educational outdoor adventure opportunities that inspire participants to
learn more about the Costa Alegre environment and communities, and to contribute to their
sustainable development. He received his M.A. in English and B.A. in Anthropology and taught
humanities for a year at the Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores in Monterrey before
establishing Immersion Adventures in 2000. Dave has run environmental field study courses in
Mexico for the past five years and is in the process of setting up the Tierralegre Conservation
Trust, a non-profit organization committed to spearheading and supporting environmental
education, research and conservation initiatives that promote sustainable development along the
Costa Alegre. He will coordinate activities for Earthwatch volunteers and staff, present
educational material and assist with the production of natural history information for
environmental education training manuals and workshops. Dave will be present for all
Current Staffing Schedule (Subject to Change)
Staff Member Present Team I Team II Team III Team IV Team V
Jerry Keir X X X X X
Paco Castellanos X X X X X
Sudeep Chandra X X X
Mark Rains X X
Kai Rains X X
Michael Marchetti X X
Zeb Hogan X X
Don Rodriguez X
Brad Monsma X
Dave Collins X X X X X
DAILY LIFE IN THE FIELD
4. VOLUNTEER TRAINING AND ASSIGNMENTS
Training of Earthwatch volunteers will be conducted by project staff members with backgrounds
and expertise in different fields of earth sciences, such as ecohydrology, plant ecology, soil
microbiology, limnology, fisheries, and conservation ecology. Staff will lecture on the following
• Conservation approaches in developing countries
• Fisheries ecology in coastal environments
• Hydrology and geomorphological influences on aquatic ecology
• Food web ecology management of native species
• Plant and microbe interactions in ecology
During the first part of the expedition training will include hands-on experiences with different
subprojects based around the research objectives. In the evenings, staff members will provide
lectures on general topics. Volunteers will also learn about basic coastal ecology systems through
a variety of excursions and field lectures. Educational opportunities will be available through
established lectures given during prior university field studies. Topics will include mangrove
ecology, tropical dry forests, and nearby reef systems.
Specific training in methods and safety protocols will be held prior to conducting research for
each subproject. Detailed information regarding methods and procedures will be offered before
entering the field. PowerPoint presentations will be provided on each phase of the study, with
ample time allowed for volunteer questions and concerns. Additional training in environmental
education outreach, brochure layout, and basic Spanish translation will also be provided.
To ensure volunteer comprehension and quality data collection, morning and evening
debriefings will be held to compare data and reflect on daily activities and challenges. At the end
of the week, Earthwatch volunteers will provide brief presentations on their findings. These
presentations will be used to evaluate volunteer comprehension of the ideas presented during
lectures, fieldwork, and data analysis.
Volunteers will be asked to assist in inventorying, mapping using GIS (Global Information
System), seed collection, planting, and monitoring and evaluation. Volunteers with prior GIS
mapping experience are very helpful, however, basic training in the use of GIS instrumentation
will be provided. Specific subprojects and assignments are as follows:
• Bird inventory: Volunteers will be trained to identify dominant migrant and resident species.
Audio recordings of vocalizations, accompanied by digital photographs and natural history
information, will be utilized to develop basic visual and audio bird identification skills.
Volunteers will traverse the mangrove in a panga boat, using binoculars and GPS (Global
Positioning System) units to locate and record bird activity. Experienced birding staff will
accompany volunteers and oversee counts to ensure data accuracy.
• Hydrological and aquatic studies: Volunteers will be trained in proper methods of sampling
biomass for the understanding of fisheries production. Basic training on equipment function
and uses will be provided. Fish sampling techniques, including the correct use of gill nets,
fishing, and minnow traps, will also be introduced at the start of each expedition.
• Floral surveys: Volunteers will use the field library and reference files to identify and preserve
local floral populations. Each volunteer will receive basic training to effectively use
taxonomical indexes for field referencing. Volunteers will use plant presses for these
• Mangrove restoration: Volunteers will assist in identifying and recording areas of natural
and/or human-caused disturbances, capturing photo points and GPS coordinates of priority
restoration areas. Volunteers will also assist with the collection and preservation of
propagule and, during the implementation phase, assist with the establishment and
monitoring of planting transects.
• Rocky reef monitoring: Volunteers will monitor and evaluate the relative abundance,
distribution and diversity of marine macro-invertebrates and reef fishes present on the rocky
reef known as “La Manzanillita.” In order to perform this survey, volunteers must be able
to swim/snorkel 500 feet to the reef with mild wave action and low energy currents. Life
vests will be available.
Note that snorkeling is optional. While training needed to participate in the reef survey will
be provided, the staff understands that some people are not comfortable swimming or
snorkeling in the ocean. Paco Castellanos applies his training as a Sea Kayak Instructor and
considers nationally accepted field practices for swimming and snorkeling.
• Environmental education: Volunteers will assist in the preparation and delivery of a variety of
outreach efforts, including classroom visits to the local primary school. Volunteers will be
encouraged to share experiences with the research and provide a multi-cultural context for
their interest in the local project. Poster and PowerPoint presentations will be provided to
assist in the delivery of this information. Additionally, volunteers will be encouraged to
assist in the design and production of interpretative signs to be installed near urban areas
around the mangrove.
5. TEAM ITINERARY
Day 1: Rendezvous, travel to La Manzanilla, program orientation, assignment of work
Day 2: Methodologies workshop, safety protocols for research, GPS workshop,
inventory and sampling training
Days 3-5: Fieldwork schedule (see Section 6 ‘Daily Schedule’)
Day 6: Breakfast at beach camp/bungalow (8:00 am), free time/optional
kayaking/snorkeling tour (9:00 am), lunch at beach camp/bungalow (12:30 pm),
free time (2:00 pm), dinner at beach camp/bungalow (6:00 pm)
Days 7-8: Fieldwork schedule (see Section 6 ‘Daily Schedule’)
Day 9: Departure (do not book a flight from Manzanillo that departs before 11:00 am!)
Volunteers will be given one recreational day midweek to further explore the area. A variable
amount of free time will also be offered daily, depending upon completion of tasks. Volunteers
should consult a travel guidebook for information on local attractions. See Section 15 ‘Helpful
Resources’ for suggested guidebook vendor websites.
6. DAILY SCHEDULE AND TASKS
Below is a typical schedule for fieldwork days (Days 3-5 and 7-8), however, be aware that
schedules can and do fluctuate due to weather and research needs. Should this situation arise,
your cooperation and understanding are appreciated.
6:00 am: Breakfast at beach camp/bungalow
7:00 am: Inventory in mangrove, hydrological mapping, data collection
12:00 pm: Lunch at beach camp/bungalow
1:00 pm: GIS mangrove mapping, water quality, fish sampling, testing, data analysis
6:00 pm: Dinner at beach camp/bungalow
Teams I, II and V will stay at a base camp on La Manzanilla Beach, directly across from the
mangrove research area. This beach camp consists of an open-sided thatched roof on posts
(palapa-style) and volunteers will stay in tents provided by the project, though you are welcome
to bring your own tent if you prefer. Many different sizes of tents are available, and sufficient tent
space is provided for everyone on the team. However, space in a certain type of tent is not
guaranteed; couple’s accommodations cannot be guaranteed, and you may need to share a tent
unless you choose to bring your own. Volunteers on Teams I, II and V must bring their own
sleeping pads, pillows, and sleeping bags. The base camp has potable water, a covered dining
area, two unisex bathrooms, and a cold-water shower.
Volunteers on Teams III and IV will be housed in local bungalows containing several rooms with
single and double beds. There will be no more than three persons to a room, possibly mixed
gender depending on the team. The team may be split between two or more bungalows, with up
to four team members in each. All bungalows have beds with bedding, unisex bathrooms, beach
access, and full-facility kitchens. Teams III and IV will eat meals at the bungalows.
Conventional sanitation, a secure place to store valuables, and electricity (110 volts, as in the US)
will be available to all teams. Electrical equipment is allowed but you may wish to bring an
adapter as three-prong outlets are not widely available. Laundry facilities and internet access are
available in town on a daily basis at the volunteer’s expense.
Located among an abundance of fisheries and a fishing cooperative, typical fare will include
fresh seafood as well as fresh fruit and vegetables, including avocados, papaya, guava, mangos
(seasonal), watermelon, cantaloupe, onion, bell peppers, cucumber and tomatoes. Main courses
are nutritionally balanced and always include one or more of the following: fresh vegetables, rice,
bread, beans, soups, salads and homemade fruit waters. Breakfasts and lunches are simpler and
more North American in style (e.g. cold and hot cereal and fruit for breakfast and cold-cut
sandwiches for lunch). Volunteers will be encouraged to assist in the preparation and clean-up of
all meals. A five-minute walk down the beach to the town of La Manzanilla will provide
volunteers with 12 restaurants that offer local and international menus.
Below are examples of the foods you might expect during your expedition. Please bear in mind
that variety depends on availability. This list is intended to provide a general idea of food types,
but it is very important that volunteers be flexible.
Breakfast: Hot and/or cold cereal, muffins, fruit, eggs, bread, tortillas
Lunch: Cold-cut, tuna and vegetarian sandwiches, chips and salsa, fruit, cookies
Dinner: Chile rellenos, shrimp a la diabla and al mojo de ajo, breaded filet of flounder,
Mexican style pork ribs and marinated beef, chicken cordon blue, shrimp
brochette, filet of mahi mahi a la veracruzana, enchiladas, suizas
Snacks/Other: Apples, watermelon, mango, avocado, papaya
Beverages: Coffee, tea, juice, lemonade, fresh fruit waters; soft drinks and alcohol (beer,
wine and margaritas available at dinner) are at the volunteer’s expense
Water: Bottled water available at all times
Special Dietary Requirements
Please alert your Earthwatch Expedition Coordinator to any special dietary requirements as soon
as possible (e.g. diabetic, lactose intolerant, etc.). Certain dietary needs (e.g. vegan, strict
vegetarian, diabetic) can be accommodated for breakfasts and lunches. Dinners, on the other
hand, include sufficient food groups from which special-dietary volunteers can pick and choose.
The basic menu will not be adapted for special dietary needs. If this poses a problem, then
participation on this Earthwatch expedition should be seriously reconsidered.
9. BEFORE YOU LEAVE
For a listing of websites for passport and visa requirements see Section 15 ‘Helpful Resources.’
United States Citizens
Citizens of the United States are required to possess a valid passport, or a birth certificate and
photo-identification (e.g. driver’s license or military ID), to enter Mexico. Note that some US
citizens have encountered difficulty in boarding flights in Mexico without a passport. Also note
that as of January, 2007, all US citizens traveling by air from Mexico will be required to have a
valid passport to reenter the United States. The US Embassy recommends traveling with a valid
US passport to avoid delays or misunderstandings.
After proof of citizenship has been verified, you will receive a free Mexican Tourist Card, which
you must keep with you at all times while in Mexico. This permit must be given to officials upon
departure. If you lose your Mexican Tourist Card you can obtain a copy or permission to leave
the country from the local Immigration Office.
Citizens of Other Countries
Most volunteers will be required to present a passport from their country of origin to enter
Mexico. Check with a travel a visa agency for specific visa and entry requirements. A useful
website for visa requirements is http://portal.sre.gob.mx/was_eng. Go to “Services for Non-
Mexicans” in the menu and choose “Tourists and Short Business.” Nationals of the following
countries may require special authorization before a visa can be granted: Afghanistan, Albania,
Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, China (PR),
CIS, Colombia, Congo (Dem Rep), Croatia, Cuba, East Timor, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Grenada,
Haiti, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Korea (Dem Rep), Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Macedonia (Former
Yugoslav Republic of), Mauritania, Mongolia, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi
Arabia, Serbia and Montenegro, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Taiwan,
Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Yemen and holders of British Travel or
Palestinian documents. Authorization takes approximately 3-4 weeks. Please note that these
nationals are also subject to special application requirements. For further details, contact the
Mexican Consulate (or Consular section at the Mexican Embassy) in your country.
If you do need a visa, the information in the visa chart on the next page should be useful.
Remember when filling out your visa application that the purpose of your visit is for vacation,
holiday or travel. Foreign immigration officials do not always understand the concept of a
“working vacation” or even “volunteering.” Words such as “working/volunteering,” “research”
or a “scientific expedition” can raise questions concerning the country’s foreign labor laws
and/or prompt questions about official scientific research permits and credentials, etc. to which
you will not be equipped to respond. All required research permits for the project are in place
and have been approved by the proper authorities.
Essential Information for Volunteers Requiring Visas
Type of Visa If you need a visa, you must get a TOURIST VISA. See above to determine whether
or not you need a visa.
Where to Get Contact the nearest embassy or consulate of the country to which you are traveling
a Visa to find out how to apply for your visa. Please note that this process can take weeks
or more. If you have less than six weeks or wish to save yourself trouble, we strongly
recommend using a visa agency, which can both expedite and simplify the process.
Required You will need to send your passport (valid for at least six months beyond your stay),
Information a Visa Application and Immigration Form, 2-4 passport-size photos plus payment
to the embassy or visa agency (if applicable). Please be sure that your passport is
valid for at least six months beyond your stay.
Cost of a Generally between US$40-100, but varies from country to country and can
Visa potentially cost up to US$180. A visa agency will charge an additional fee
(depending on the amount of time it takes to process the application), which you can
inquire about directly.
Volunteers Under 18 Years of Age
Entry to Foreign Countries
In an effort to prevent international child abduction many governments have initiated procedures at
entry/exit points. It may be possible for 16- and 17-year-olds to participate in the project if
accompanied by a parent or guardian. In this case, if the minor will be traveling with only one
guardian or if for any reason they will be traveling alone, it may be necessary to have a notarized
letter from all legal guardians stipulating that they may travel unaccompanied or in the presence of
a single guardian. This letter must give an explanation for why only one parent or someone other
than a parent is signing the letter. For example, if one parent is deceased, only one parent has legal
guardianship, or someone other than the parents are legal guardians, the letter should state that.
In addition, airlines may also have documentation requirements for unaccompanied minors.
Parents of minors are responsible for checking with each airline that their child will be flying to
ensure that sufficient documentation is provided. This could include a copy of a birth certificate
or a notarized letter stating that the minor has his or her parent’s permission to travel alone or
with only one parent.
Note: Requirements by specific countries and airlines vary and change frequently. You MUST
keep informed of the requirements on your own to avoid problems at immigration. If a letter is
not available, the volunteer under 18 can be refused entry into the country. There is nothing
Earthwatch Institute can do to help in this circumstance.
Travel Medical Insurance
Travel medical and evacuation insurance is mandatory for Earthwatch volunteers while on an
Earthwatch expedition anywhere in the world. The insurance covers volunteer travel medical
risk, including medical expenses and medical evacuation, while traveling with Earthwatch
overseas or on an expedition within your home country. Without insurance, the costs of such
measures can range from US$20,000 to $50,000.
The emergency medical and evacuation assistance provider for Earthwatch is On Call
International. On Call is a 24-hour international operation which provides medical assistance and
evacuation, a 24-hour nurse help line and other travel assistance services such as lost baggage
and lost document assistance.
Basic coverage is valid in the country of your Earthwatch expedition and during international
travel to and from your expedition. If the expedition takes place in your home country, coverage
begins when your group forms for the expedition and ends when the group disbands, and is
incremental to your existing health insurance. Options are available for volunteers who would
like to extend the period of coverage, increase insurance amounts or purchase additional
cancellation or baggage insurance.
A detailed description of the Volunteer Medical and Evacuation Insurance Program policy,
including the optional coverage increases, will be sent with this briefing. Please note that
policies are specific to each Earthwatch office.
To contact On Call International in the event of an emergency, dial:
• 1-866-509-7715 from within the US
• +1-603-898-9159 from outside the US
State that you are on an Earthwatch expedition. The Earthwatch policy number is #US008020.
Trip cancellation insurance, which will help cover your airfare if you are unable to travel, is
highly recommended to Earthwatch volunteers. Earthwatch does not reimburse airfare or costs
associated with cancelled flights. Check with your travel agent to find out how to obtain trip
Earthwatch Europe volunteers can purchase Additional Cancellation Cover for £10 as a supplement
to the main premium that covers non-refundable travel expenses should your team be cancelled.
Contact your local travel agent or use the web to find the lowest rates to make your travel
arrangements. A list of suggested travel agents can be found in Section 15 ‘Helpful Resources.’ Be
sure to give your rendezvous details to your travel agent as soon as possible so they can plan
your trip accordingly.
Other Advice / Information
• Local currency: Mexican Peso
• Language: Spanish
• Time zone: GMT -6
• Electricity: 110 volts, 60 hertz, two-prong flat blade plug or two flat blades with one round
grounding pin (volunteers who want to use three-prong equipment should bring a converter)
• Telephone dialing codes: When calling Mexico from another country, dial that country’s
international dialing code, followed by 52 (Mexico’s country code) and the number. When
calling within Mexico, omit the 52. When calling another country from Mexico, dial 00,
followed by the other country’s country code and the number.
• Personal funds: Cash is the best form of currency in Mexico. Traveler’s checks are not
recommended, as they are hard to exchange. You are encouraged to exchange money prior to
entering the country; however, an automated teller machine (ATM) is available in the nearby
town of Melaque and can be accessed on the way to the research site following the rendezvous.
Debit cards can be used at ATMs and are recommended. You should consider bringing funds
for recreational activities (e.g. ecotours, renting equipment such as a surfboard, snorkel gear,
kayak, etc.), as well as for buying gifts, snacks and alcoholic beverages. Approximately US$250
should be sufficient, depending on individual needs and shopping habits.
• Checking luggage: Please note that if you will be taking an international flight that has one or more
connections within the country of your destination, it will be necessary to collect any checked bags
at the airport where you first arrive in the destination country. After proceeding through Customs,
you will have to recheck your luggage before flying on to your final destination.
10. PROJECT CONDITIONS
Please show this section to your physician when s/he is completing your health statement. Be sure to
discuss inoculation requirements with your physician well in advance of your departure date. See Section
10 ‘Health Information’ for inoculation information.
To the examining physician:
Your patient has volunteered to join a field research team that has specific physical demands of
which you and your patient should be aware. We need your accurate evaluation of your
patient’s ability to meet the conditions detailed below in order to safeguard his/her health and
safety, and ensure that s/he can participate fully and effectively.
General Conditions of the Research Site
La Manzanilla is at sea level, with a rainy season from June through October and an average
rainfall of approximately 80 centimeters per year. The surrounding area is characterized by
tropical deciduous forest with a lush riparian and mangrove coastline. Temperature ranges from
60 to 102°F, with considerable humidity during the rainy season, often up to 100%. In the
mornings there is usually have a slight breeze from the east, scattered cirrus clouds, and on some
occasions, a light fog/dew. By 1:00 or 2:00 pm there is generally an afternoon buildup, with wind
speed increasing and wind direction switching from east to northwest.
Humidity 40% to 75%
Temperature range 60°F/16°C to 102°F/39°C
Annual rainfall 80 cm/31 in, with most falling June through October
The ocean, which is calm and flat in the morning, typically develops small waves (less than one
foot) in the afternoon and later waves increase to up to three feet. The team will generally take
advantage of the morning weather when doing the rocky reef survey, which involves boating
and swimming and/or snorkeling. On those days, the team will perform the survey early and
return by noon. In most cases this strategy has been the best way to avoid bad weather and
deteriorating ocean conditions. Please remember that due to the beach and ocean floor
topography, most of the boat launching and landing will be with wave action or surf that
requires specific group and risk management protocols.
Typical water temperature 20°C/68°F to 28°C/82.4°F
Typical water visibility 0 ft/m to 25 ft/7.61 m
Typical maximum water depth in area 1 ft/0.3 m to 25 ft/7.61 m
Types of water environment Bay/Cove
Timing of boat-based work Day
Anticipated sea state 0 ft/0 m to 3 ft/1 m
Volunteers should be able to walk/hike up to five miles in a tropical climate, which could put
one at risk of heat exhaustion if appropriate precautions aren’t taken (see Potential Hazards
below). Swimming ability is necessary for participation in the rocky reef survey. Snorkeling is
optional, and volunteers are not required to have prior experience. When using the project boats,
restroom breaks will be accommodated on request. Below are the expected demands of the
project, but please keep in mind that conditions may change and the project could potentially be
more or less strenuous than the chart indicates.
Sitting 4 hours per day on 3 days: 1.5 days during presentations, 2 days in boat/skiff
Hiking 4 hours per day on 3 days (in moderation): 2 days during mangrove monitoring, 1
day during visit to Biosphere Reserve to hike the interpretative trail
Walking 1 hour on 1 day: From beach camp/house to restaurant for dinner
Swimming 3 hours on 1 day (in moderation): Only when performing the rocky reef survey,
swimming to the transect location from the beach and back (snorkeling during this
survey is optional)
Medical Conditions of Special Concern
Below are conditions which would make this expedition difficult or impossible. Please speak
with your physician about whether or not participation is advisable. Be sure to note any health
conditions on your health form.
Condition Concerns and Precautions
Limited If you have very limited mobility (e.g. severe knee, ankle or back problems,
mobility wheelchair bound, etc.), you will struggle with the unpaved local paths and
roads and the difficult terrain within the mangrove forest. The tropical forest
substrate is boggy and dense with extensive above-ground root systems.
Lack of basic Although the team will not be walking long distances, you will need to work in
fitness the sun for hours at a time, which can be tiring and physically demanding. A
basic level of fitness is desirable.
Intolerance of The climate of the research area is tropical, with high heat and humidity. Any
heat/humidity conditions aggravated by heat and humidity may be cause for concern.
Conditions Hydrophobia, discomfort in or around boats, uncontrolled inner ear infections,
limiting conditions that reduce or limit ability to equalize pressure in one’s ears,
swimming/ conditions that affect balance, blood clotting issues and/or any condition that
water activities interferes or limits a volunteer’s swimming or breathing should be considered
carefully. If you suffer from motion or seasickness and intend to treat this with
either over-the-counter or prescribed medication, please discuss the use and side
effects with your physician. Note that volunteers are not required to participate
in snorkeling activities.
Below are potential hazards associated with the project and the research area. All of the risks
listed below have avoidance and management strategies on which volunteers will be briefed.
Hazard Type Associated Risks and Precautions
Terrain The terrain in the mangroves is unstable, boggy, and uneven with exposed tree
roots. You will need to be mindful of where you step in transect areas.
Animals and Risks include scorpion stings, nematocyst stings, venomous stings from marine
plants life such as jellyfish and stingrays, and reptile bites. Sea urchins are present and
their spines can be painful if contact is made (special precaution should be taken
by volunteers who choose to snorkel). Ortiguillo and hincha huevos are two
large bushes which produce a toxic liquid present in their trunks, branches,
leaves and fruit. This liquid can cause irritation to the skin upon contact. Hincha
huevos can also cause inflammation of the testicles in males. You will be briefed
on how to avoid and deal with animal and plant encounters.
Climate While working under the tropical sun you must be aware of the risks of
dehydration, heat illness, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and sunburn. There will
be no protection from the sun while in the project boats. You should wear
sunscreen and drink at least four liters of water each day.
Personal Theft is always a risk when traveling. All personal items will be locked up at
security headquarters when the team is away from the accommodations.
Snorkeling Volunteers who choose to snorkel will be briefed on proper procedures and
risks. Volunteers are not required to participate in snorkeling activities.
Health Drinking unpurified water may lead to intestinal illness, however, ample potable
hazards/ water is available and all vegetables and fruits are treated with microiodine.
Diseases Diseases found in tropical regions include malaria, dengue fever, filariasis,
leishmaniasis, onchocerciasis, trypanosomiasis, schistosomiasis, hepatitis and
typhoid. Please see Section 11 ‘Health Information’ for advice and inoculation
Working on a Boat hazards include falling and becoming injured due to wet, slippery decks,
boat and falling overboard leading to injury and/or cold-related illness. When using
boats of any kind, project staff will address the weather, wind and wave
dynamics, coastal navigation and risk management, and safety and judgment in
the ocean. They will constantly evaluate sea conditions and decide if the team
can participate in boat-based reef survey.
11. HEALTH INFORMATION
All volunteers should make sure to have the following up-to-date immunizations: DPT
(diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus), polio, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and varicella (if you have
not already had chicken pox). Please be sure your tetanus shot is current.
The following are recommendations only. Medical decisions are the responsibility of each
volunteer. Note that health conditions around the world are constantly changing, so keep
informed and consult your physician, a local travel health clinic, the US Center for Disease
Control (www.cdc.gov), the World Health Organization (www.who.int) or the resources in
Section 15 ‘Helpful Resources’ for the latest health information for travelers. Please consult your
physician for guidance on inoculations if you intend to travel to other parts of the country.
These inoculations are recommended for health reasons.
Yellow Fever If traveling from countries or region where it is endemic, a Certificate of
Vaccination is required.
Other Advice / Information
• Malaria: Malaria is not present at the research site; however, chloroquine resistant malaria is
present elsewhere in the country, so volunteers traveling outside of the research area should
consider an anti-malarial.
• Cholera: Cholera may be present in the research area. In 1973 the World Health Organization
(WHO), recognizing that immunization cannot stop the spread of cholera among countries,
deleted from the International Health Regulations the requirement of cholera immunization
as a condition of admission to any country. In 1990 the WHO stated that immunization
against cholera was not effective and it does not recommend it. In 1991 the WHO confirmed
that certification was no longer required by any country or territory.
• Tuberculosis: The WHO estimates that one-third of the world’s population is infected with the
bacterium (M.tuberculosis) that causes tuberculosis (TB). Incidence of tuberculosis is higher in
developing countries, particularly in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. In
general, approximately 10% of persons infected with M. tuberculosis are at risk for developing
active TB during their lifetimes. TB is considered highly treatable with medications that are of
relatively low toxicity and cost. Volunteers returning from developing countries are
encouraged to have a (PPD)-tuberculin skin-test to screen for potential infection.
12. PACKING CONSIDERATIONS
PLEASE SEE THE PACKING CHECKLIST AT THE BACK OF THIS BRIEFING AND
REMEMBER TO TAKE YOUR BRIEFING WITH YOU ON YOUR EXPEDITION.
Do not bring more luggage than you can carry and handle on your own. Due to limited luggage
space on vehicles, you should pack everything in a single large duffle bag. You should also pack
a carry-on bag with an extra set of field clothing and personal essentials in the event that your
luggage is lost and/or takes several days to catch up with you.
Please take weather conditions into consideration when packing for your expedition. Climate
information can be found in Section 10 ‘Project Conditions.’ The rainy season occurs between June
and October and those traveling during this time will require rain gear for afternoon showers.
Make sure to bring your Earthwatch Expedition Briefing with you. It includes essential
information to which you may need to refer during your expedition, as well as during your
journey to and from the project site. Please see the Expedition Packing Checklist for a complete
list of what you will need to take with you. You are encouraged to go through the list with a
pen or pencil and mark off each required item right before you leave for your expedition. This list
conveniently tears out from the briefing, so you can take it with you when shopping and
preparing for your expedition. Make sure to bring the list with you on your expedition so you
can check it again before you return home.
13. RECOMMENDED READING
Below are recommended materials for those interested in further preparing for the expedition.
Many can be purchased online. See Section 15 ‘Helpful Resources’ for suggested vendor websites.
• A Field Guide to the Mammals of the Jalisco Coast, Mexico by G. Ceballos and A. Miranda (2000):
A great introduction to the area’s mammals; also offers useful natural history information.
• Mexico Reader (2001, Duke University Press): A comprehensive anthology of Mexican history,
folklore, and politics.
• Wildlife Restoration by M. Morrison (2002, Island Press): A thoughtful and practical overview
of the principles of experimental design and monitoring as they relate to wildlife restoration.
• Endangered Mexico: An Environment on the Edge by J. Simon (1997, Sierra Club Books): A
popular and very readable history of environmental change throughout Mexico with an
excellent overview of the challenges facing ecotourism.
• Peterson Field Guide to Mexican Birds by R.T. Peterson and E.L. Chalif (1996)
Project Field Report
Each Earthwatch Institute-supported project submits a report on the past year’s research and
results to Earthwatch, generally on an annual basis. The most recent field report for this project
may be available online through www.earthwatch.org. Note that reports are not available for all
14. EMERGENCIES IN THE FIELD
In the event of a minor injury or illness, the team member will be taken to the local La Manzanilla
Clinic by automobile, where medical assistance can be obtained rather efficiently. In the event of
a major or life-threatening medical emergency, the team member will be transported by
automobile to the Careyes Clinic, where helicopter transport to a full-facility hospital is available.
Project staff will contact both Earthwatch staff and the volunteer’s emergency contact as soon as
possible to assist with healthcare arrangements.
Staff Certified in Paco Castellanos is currently CPR and Wilderness First Responder certified.
Safety Training Dave Collins is currently CPR, First Aid and Swift Water Rescue Safety
Nearest Emergency Careyes Clinic (although it is a clinic, they have a helicopter and ambulance
Facility and are connected to the hospitals in Guadalajara)
Tel: 011 52 315-351-0170
35 kilometers north (35-minute drive) from La Manzanilla
Nearest Hospitals Hospital San Javier Hospital Del Carmen
Av. Pablo Casals # 640 Tarascos # 3435
Col. Prados Providencia Col. Monraz
Guadalajara, Jalisco Guadalajara, Jalisco
CP 44670 CP 44670
Tel: (33) 3669-0222 Tel: (33) 3813-0042/0078
Fax: (33) 3669-0222 Fax: (33) 3813-0042 ext. 255
15. HELPFUL RESOURCES
• Information on La Manzanilla: www.lamanzanilla.info and www.lamanzanilla.biz
• Great Basin Institute: www.greatbasininstitute.org
• Immersion Adventures: www.immersionadventures.com/
• Maps of Mexico: http://www.maps-of-mexico.com/
Useful Visa / Passport Information
• Mexican Consulate in the US: http://portal.sre.gob.mx/was_eng
• General: http://www.embassyworld.com
• For Japanese citizens: http://www.rainbowt.jp/travel/visa_top.html
• For Australian citizens: http://www.travel.com.au
• The Visaservice: http://www.visaservice.co.uk
• Thames Consular Services Ltd: http://www.visapassport.com
Travel Guidebooks and Booksellers
• Lonely Planet travel guidebooks and online travel site: http://www.lonelyplanet.com.
• The Rough Guide travel guidebooks and online travel site: http://travel.roughguides.com/
• Amazon: http://www.amazon.com
• Barnes and Noble: http://www.bn.com
Travel and Airline Resources
• Exito Travel (specializing in Latin America travel): http://www.exitotravel.com
108 Rutgers St.
Ft. Collins, CO 80525
Tel: 1 800-655-4053 ext. 8507 (toll free US and Canada, ask for Isaac Hilpman)
Fax: +1 510-868-8306 (worldwide)
• STA Travel (contact Angie Kurtz or Chris Chappell and mention that you will be going on an
Earthwatch Expedition): http://www.statravel.com
36 Geary Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
Tel: +1 415 391-8407
• STA Travel (UK): http://www.statravel.co.uk
Tel: +44 (0) 1865 792800
Fax: +44 (0) 1865 792911
Quote code: EWE01/02
• TravelNotes.org: http://www.1800-fly.com
• World Travel Guide: http://www.worldtravelguide.com
• Cheap Flights (worldwide): http://www.travelix.com/ or http://www.discountair.com/
• Airport Codes Worldwide: http://www.logisticsworld.com/airports.asp
• Third World Traveler – offers many links for useful travel information:
• UK Foreign Office travel advice: http://www.fco.gov.uk/travel
• Country Reports - country information from around the world:
• National Geographic Map Machine: http://plasma.nationalgeographic.com/mapmachine
• US State Department: http://www.state.gov/
• World Time Server: http://www.worldtimeserver.com/ (time worldwide with GMT/UTC)
• Currency converter: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
• Electrical current converter: http://www.converterstore.com/voltage_chart.htm
• Telephone dialing from and to anywhere: http://kropla.com/dialcode.htm
• Online unit conversions: http://www.onlineconversion.com
• Worldwide weather: http://www.worldweather.com, http://www.wunderground.com or
• ATM locator: http://visa.via.infonow.net/locator/global/jsp/SearchPage.jsp or
• Exhaustive list of weather resources: http://cirrus.sprl.umich.edu/wxnet/servers.html
• US Travel Clinic Directory: http://www.astmh.org/scripts/clinindex.asp
• Travel Health website: http://www.mdtravelhealth.com
• Center for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov
Tel: +1 800 311-3435 or +1 888 232-3228
• World Health Organization: http://www.who.int
• The Travel Doctor (Australia): http://www.tmvc.com.au
Tel: +1 300 658-844 (within AU)
• Disease outbreaks: http://www.who.int/csr/don/en/
• Hospital for Tropical Diseases: http://www.thehtd.org/
• Travellers Healthline Advisory Service
Tel: 020 7950 7799
• MASTA Travelers’ Healthline (UK)
Tel: 0906 8 224100 (within UK)
16. BACKGROUND, OBJECTIVES AND METHODS
Most mangrove restoration projects around the world aim primarily to manage these forests
(Ellison 2000). The Mexican Mangroves and Wildlife project was designed with more encompassing
goals in mind – to preserve the larger ecosystem function, thereby reversing deforestation and
increasing wildlife protection. Few studies have accounted for all ecological processes in this
way, yet the relative ecological simplicity of mangrove restoration provides an ideal testing
ground for general theories of restoration ecology. Lessons learned from this project could
therefore be applied to more complex upland habitats. More specifically, this long-term initiative
is attempting, through a variety of field trials, to restore mangrove in areas most affected by
habitat encroachment and natural disturbances. Unlike most mangrove restoration projects,
which fail to address a variety of ecological processes, this project promotes an interdisciplinary
approach toward restoration, requiring not only baseline inventories and planting field trials but
also a community outreach component that unites the regional population base.
Past and Continuing Objectives
In its first three years, the Mexican Mangroves and Wildlife project aimed to create a comprehensive
biological inventory of the mangrove system. The project identified its priority restoration areas
and laid the groundwork for subsequent monitoring and inventorying. Below are the specific
objectives and outcomes of the past three years, as well as the need for additional data in regards
to each objective.
Terrestrial and Aquatic Species Inventory
The first objective was to provide a comprehensive biological inventory of terrestrial and aquatic
species in the mangrove system. Earthwatch teams have conducted a variety of inventory and
monitoring tasks which provide a biological snapshot of the current status of regional ecosystem
health. Teams captured essential data on species composition, distribution, and abundance, while
also providing data indicators of areas of low, moderate, and high habitat disturbance –
information used to create maps of disturbance areas and preliminary restoration plans. As the
project begins direct restoration implementation, continued monitoring of species abundance,
distribution, and densities is required to measure the possible impact of these efforts and to
provide regional land managers with yearly statistical information of changes.
Erosion Control and Restoration at the Urban Interface
Next the project aimed to enhance the urban interface areas of the mangrove system through
erosion control measures and restoration. After frequent meetings with the Ejido, business
community members, and the local governing officials, a protective fence was installed around
the mangrove area near the urban interface. This alone was a significant milestone. Additionally,
with the assistance of the Earthwatch volunteers, local primary students and educators, and
community members, an interpretative trail was constructed on the eastern edge of the
mangrove, providing locals and visitors with essential information on mangrove wildlife while
controlling the flow of visitor traffic to established routes and slowing erosion and disturbance in
But while the construction of fences and trails has assisted in abating human impacts on the
mangrove, there remains an appreciable impact from local and visitor use. Outside of the fence,
cutting of mangrove forest, trash dumping, and the burning of plastics continues. More data on
the recovery rates of restoration plots is needed, as well as the monitoring of additional areas of
the mangrove. This project must create an inventory of highly impacted (deforested) areas that
could be restored with native mangrove species. Restoration trial sites must be selected and
treated to deduce the most effective and sustainable way to implement these restoration efforts.
Local Community Awareness
Over the past three years this project aimed to raise the bioregional awareness and ecological
literacy of the local fishing community through environmental education and outreach. Seven
workshops with local community leaders were organized, totaling 163 participants, including the
land cooperative president, the president of the local fisheries cooperative, the town’s water
master, and high school and primary school teachers. These workshops detailed the project’s
progress and shared preliminary findings. The meetings also extended invitations for local
community involvement in the project. Moreover, several outreach programs within the local
schools have led to a composting and recycling initiative, the latter of which was funded by an
Earthwatch-led fundraiser which provided US$1,500 for receptacles and informational signage.
Earthwatch volunteers and students created an educational mural outside the local primary
school, while also assisting with an Audubon-based avian monitoring program entitled “One
bird, two habitats,” which highlights the shared migration territories of birds in La Manzanilla
and the United States. Since completing the interpretative trail, the project has arranged four
guided visits, mainly with elementary and high school groups of approximately 20 people each.
By the end of the 2006 season, at least three more groups from the region are expected to visit.
Continued environmental education through hands-on learning and public meetings is necessary
for the local community to become actively involved in conservation issues. This work will also
help local decision-makers to understand and value the unique ecological characteristics and
ecotourism opportunities associated with the mangrove system.
Informed Ecotourism Planning
The final objective of the past three years was to inform Costa Alegre residents and visitors of the
biotic importance and economic value of mangroves through ecotourism planning. As described
above, a series of outreach strategies have been implemented to educate the public on the
importance and attributes of the mangrove forest. These include the interpretive trail as well as a
bilingual (English/Spanish) pamphlet written for visitors to take on the trail, so it can be self
guided experience. Some thought has been given to the idea of training local guides to organize
tours through the mangrove using the interpretative trail. Signs were also placed at an
information kiosk on the coastal road with directions on how to get to the interpretative trail
from town. Additionally, a specific questionnaire has been designed to interview local and
regional fishermen and will be implemented by the fall 2007.
In the upcoming season the project will open a small beachside interpretative center where locals
and visitors can obtain cultural and natural history information on the ecosystem and learn of
opportunities to assist with the monitoring program. The project will also promote panga tours
for the local ecotourism cooperative. Furthermore, as a newly created local nonprofit is staffed (a
conservation trust entitled “Tierralegre”), locals and visitors can learn of conservation
opportunities for investing in private land conservation easements.
Future Objectives and Methods
With monitoring protocols in place for mangroves, wildlife, and reefs, the project will turn its
focus toward obtaining a more detailed understanding of ecosystem dynamics. To that end, the
Great Basin Institute provided travel stipends for a variety of specialists to conduct initial project
site visits to develop essential research tasks and methods. Based on these site visits and a careful
review of existing data, this project will now focus on determining the ecosystem dynamics
(physical, chemical, and biological) that result in ecological production in the mangrove.
Earthwatch teams will also work towards understanding the cultural importance of the
mangroves to determine conservation approaches that protect the ecosystem while respecting
In addition to continuing the objectives of prior years (see Past and Continuing Objectives above),
goals for the next three years are detailed below. These objectives will allow for a broader
understanding of the function and importance of these mangroves both environmentally and
Community Perceptions of the Mangrove
During upcoming seasons the project will work to characterize the cultural importance of the
mangrove to the local community and the perception of how wastewater treatment additions will
influence the mangrove ecosystems. Understanding community perceptions is critical when
trying to determine how to implement a management conservation plan. It is important to
understand both historical and contemporary attitudes so that both can be incorporated into
addressing issues degrading the mangroves. Local community members living in La Manzanilla
will be interviewed to determine their attitudes about the natural environment and mangrove
ecosystems. Interviews will be conducted across gender, age, income level, job (e.g. fisherman,
business owner, housewife, etc.), period of residency (native local, immigrant local), and country
of origin. See the appendix for a sample questionnaire for the fisheries cooperative.
Hydrological and Chemical Processes in the Mangrove
The project aims to quantify the hydrological and chemical linkages for each mangrove. Recent
studies indicate that hydrological processes control ecosystem structure and function in
mangroves (Feller et al. 2002). To date, however, little is known about the hydrology and
geochemistry of mangrove systems in general and about systems on the Costa Alegre in
particular. Few ecological processes have been directly related to variations in hydrological
conditions in mangrove systems (e.g. Rivera-Monroy and Twilley 1996, Cahoon and Lynch 1997,
Gleason et al. 2003). This study will investigate these processes as they relate to mangroves in the
La Manzanilla area with emphasis placed on understanding the physical (surface-ground
interactions) and chemical (salinity) exchanges in the area adjacent to the mangroves.
The project will take a combined hydrometric and geochemical approach to identifying the
source, mixing, and chemistry of surface water and shallow groundwater in both wet and dry
seasons. Input locations for likely water sources will be mapped and a conceptual model of the
water balance of the mangrove systems will be created. The potential impact of future
development, including a proposed sewage treatment facility, will be assessed by repeating these
measurements in the last year of this study if the sewage treatment facility is in operation.
Historical Changes in Mangrove Distribution
The project will measure how the distribution of these mangroves has changed over time. The
two mangrove systems differ in their degree of marine and terrestrial influence, with permanent
surface water connections between the Tenacatita mangrove and the ocean and episodic surface
water connections between the La Manzanilla mangrove and the ocean. However, this might not
have always been the case in the geologic and/or recent past. Understanding these connections
will be important when characterizing the biota present in the system today. The degree of
marine and terrestrial influence in the recent past will be determined by analyzing aerial
photographs, interviewing local residents, and measuring stable isotope concentrations in the
lower food web of the mangroves.
In the upcoming research seasons the project will attempt to obtain serial satellite and aerial
photography to document historical changes in the mangroves. These will be geo-referenced and
incorporated into a Global Information System (GIS) database to facilitate a quantitative
assessment of connectivity between the mangroves and La Manzanilla Bay. This information will
be combined with interviews of longer-term residents in the community to determine what
alterations have occurred to the mangroves in recent history.
Vegetation and Soil Dynamics and Species Composition
It is necessary to evaluate mangrove plant structure and identify vegetative composition and
below ground soil and nutrient dynamics. Mangrove root activity influences belowground
processes and species composition through increasing soil organic matter, salinity and soil
oxygen, thus influencing decomposition rates and habitat quality. Aboveground mangrove roots
provide important shelter for intertidal species such as algae, crabs, and shellfish. Submerged
roots meanwhile serve as protective habitat for juvenile fish of many species. Fallen mangrove
leaves are a critical source of organic matter for local organisms and, through tidal movement, for
organisms in hydrologically connected habitats. There are striking differences in mangrove
species composition, and this project therefore expects to find differences in habitat quality both
belowground and aboveground between the two sites.
Urbanization and the delivery of sewage to these ecosystems are likely to impact species
composition. Urbanization is expected to result in increased sediment deposition, potentially
plugging the small pores in mangrove roots which are critical to their function. Sewage and
wastewater will bring pollutants, excessive nutrients, and heavy metals into these ecosystems.
Pollutants such as oil also have the capacity to plug root pores, while an increase in nutrient
levels may result in significant species changes in these ecosystems which are traditionally
limited in nitrogen and phosphorus.
This project will reevaluate the permanent transects set up during past Earthwatch expeditions
and collect additional information on species composition, percent cover, root density, shoot
elongation, and leaf production. Data on resident wildlife will be collected along these transects,
such as the density of shellfish adhering to roots (expected to decline as water quality decreases)
and the density of fiddler crab burrows (expected to decrease in response to increases in water
delivery to wetlands). Data will be compared to differences and changes observed in the physical
and chemical hydrology of the mangrove systems.
Effects of Plant and Aquatic Invertebrate Production on Fish and Crocodiles
It is anticipated that increased sewage will shift aquatic species composition and production in the
mangrove systems. The fifth new objective is to quantify the production of aquatic and terrestrial
plants and aquatic invertebrates as they affect aquatic species production, specifically fish and
crocodiles. Through sampling, the project aims to quantify the biomass of algae and the composition
of invertebrates in each mangrove over time. Since not all living matter in the water is algae but
includes other microorganisms, the organic carbon concentration will also be measured.
Invertebrates identified to the appropriate taxonomy can provide information regarding the longer-
term condition of an aquatic ecosystem. Since different types of invertebrates are of differing food
quality and can affect the transfer of production to fish and crocodiles, invertebrate biomass and
species composition will be measured.
Fish in the Mangroves and Fishing in La Manzanilla Bay
The project aims to determine fish composition and ecological characteristics for species in each
mangrove, and to quantify changes in fishing harvest in La Manzanilla bay. The connectivity of
the mangrove to the ocean should determine the fishery composition and structure of each
ecosystem. The hydrological exchange and nutrient dynamics also influence the diet and growth
rates of species. The project will sample fish from each mangrove using gill nets, fishing, and
minnow traps. Samples will be processed for diet, size, and age analysis. Since introduced
sewage can contain chemicals (manmade estrogen, etc.) that may influence the population’s sex
ratio, sex ratios for each species will be noted. All samples processed will be used to enhance
interpretation of the biological production and chemical composition in the mangrove. Muscle
tissue from the samples will be collected to facilitate the calculation of the feeding relationship of
the fishes and influence from marine or freshwater influences on aquatic production.
Since mangroves are important nursery grounds for fish in coastal environments, efforts will be
undertaken to assess if fish catch has been altered over time in La Manzanilla bay. Questionnaires
will be used to interview fisherman in the local fisheries cooperative to assess changes in the
fishery over time (see an example questionnaire in the appendix). These interviews should help
determine what part the mangroves play in fishery production, as opposed to fishery alterations
influenced by climactic shifts in ocean temperatures and currents, or other causes.
Food Web Structure and Ecological Relationships
To determine ecological relationships for each species, the project needs to determine the food
web structure for each mangrove as they pertain to fisheries and crocodiles. There is an emerging
recognition by ecologists that a species cannot be effectively managed without considering its
interactions with other species (i.e. predator and prey). Fortunately, recent innovations reveal
that stable isotopes are an efficient tool for revealing food web and feeding relationships in
aquatic systems (Vander Zanden and Rasmussen 2001, Hecky and Hesslein 1996). Nitrogen
isotopes are indicators of consumer trophic level, while carbon isotopes indicate carbon source to
higher consumers. Together, these two ecological tracers provide a holistic picture of predator-
prey relationships. Relative to gut content analysis, this approach is time and cost effective and
can be performed with minimal or no fish mortality, since analysis can be performed on fin clips.
Because distinct signatures of sulfur and nitrogen isotopes exist between ocean and freshwater
environments, in some cases it is possible to use measurements of these isotopes to determine the
relative contribution of nutrients from these environments on the biota of the mangrove.
Biological samples of invertebrates will be collected in the field, placed in isopropyl alcohol, and
identified to species and functional feeding group (Merritt and Cummins 1996). Fish samples will
be collected and analyzed at the stable isotope laboratory at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Crocodile Population Dynamics
Finally, the project aims to conduct a preliminary assessment to determine if crocodiles are
sedentary and isolated populations. In order to protect the crocodile populations in the
mangroves it is critical to understand the migration and movement patterns of the populations.
One method of understanding the mixing of populations in each mangrove is to determine the
genetic composition of the population. A second, cheaper, method is to use morphometric
techniques, or the measurement of physical structure of an organism relative to the whole body,
to determine if there might be different strains of organisms in an ecosystem. Recent advances in
camera and computer software technology have allowed for the easy determination of
morphometric information for species. The project will collect 40 digital images of crocodile
heads from each mangrove. Photos will be downloaded and processed and morphometric scores
for each mangrove and size class of crocodiles will be calculated to determine if there may be
17. RESULTS AND OPPORTUNITIES
This project has benefited a wide range of groups and individuals. Ten members of the Colegio
de Biólogos de Jalisco and approximately 50 members of the surrounding scientific community
benefit from the biological surveys and targeted restoration efforts. Approximately 50 local
primary and secondary school students in La Manzanilla are directly affected and approximately
500 students from surrounding schools along the Costa Alegre benefit indirectly through the
project’s outreach initiatives. Primary and secondary school teachers have been introduced to
environmental education practices and will share their knowledge with other teachers.
Approximately 20 members of the local ecotourism project have benefited from the infrastructure
of the mangrove interpretive information and from ecotourism workshops that provide training
for guides. Nearly five dozen fishermen from the local cooperative have benefited from the
natural resource management workshops.
The Local Community
Project staff have hosted numerous public meetings and lectures to inform residents of the
project’s findings and of its overarching aim to understand the changes occurring within the
mangrove, coastline, and upland tropical dry forests. Local community members have also
learned about the project’s results by participating in service events and monitoring initiatives.
By having a more thorough and accurate understanding of the ecological processes occurring
within La Manzanilla bay, more objective and concise information can be given to the local
community and its leaders about the importance, relevance and major threats that endanger
biodiversity in the area. The information is disseminated through outreach strategies such as
workshops, classroom visits, and, informally, through interpretative trail signage. The research
will contribute to environmental education curricula to integrate into the school system and
inform the local community of the importance of conserving the biodiversity of the mangrove.
Conservation Efforts and Policy Making
The translation of scientific data into an accessible form for public dissemination is a crucial
aspect to this project. Inventory and monitoring efforts are now being presented to various
individuals with decision-making authority. Discussions have led to conservation-minded
planning efforts that will result in sustainable development. There have been gradual changes in
local attitudes toward commercial development and the exploitation of natural resources. Given
the sizable attendance at community events and program lectures, it is clear that those in charge
of local decision-making are now considering the impacts of land use decisions on human and
non-human quality of life. As the project moves toward the development and implementation of
a recreation management plan, the impact on public policy will be more fully understood. It is
also notable that the success of the recycling program is an indication of a community
commitment to shaping public policy toward more ecologically sound management.
The Future of the Mangrove and the Local Community
Inventory and monitoring methodologies are being introduced to the local community leaders so
that this program can continue beyond the support of Earthwatch. Ideally, armed with relevant
and scientifically credible information, the local community can partner with regional and federal
governmental authorities to develop strategies for responsible use of natural resources in the
area. The creation of structured environmental education opportunities for visitors will continue
to enhance the local economy. Also, by increasing the ecological literacy of the local community,
future generations will learn of the importance of the surrounding ecosystems and be encouraged
to apply conservation practices that will promote sustainability.
18. LITERATURE CITED
Ellison, A.M. Mangrove restoration: do we know enough? Ecological Restoration 8:219-27.
Field, C. 1998. Rationales and practices of mangrove afforestation. Marine and Freshwater Research
Hamilton, L.S. and S.C. Snedaker (eds). 1984. Handbook for mangrove area management. United
Nations Environment Program and East-West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii.
Robertson, A.I. and D.M. Alongi (eds). 1992. Tropical Mangrove Ecosystems. American Geophysical
Union, Washington, DC.
Armijos, M.M. and A. Bodero. 1998. An approach and preliminary model of integrating
ecological and economic constraints of environmental quality in the Guayas River estuary,
Ecuador. Environmental Science and Policy 1:271-88.
Primavera, J.H. 1998. Socio-economic impacts of shrimp culture. Aquaculture Research 28:815-27.
Cahoon, D.R. and J.C. Lynch. 1997. Vertical accretion and shallow subsidence in a mangrove
forest of southwestern Florida, USA. Mangroves and Salt Marshes 1:173-86.
Davis, S.E. III, D.L. Childers, J.W. Day, Jr., D.T. Rudnick and F.H. Sklar. 2001. Nutrient dynamics
in vegetated and unvegetated areas of a southern Everglades mangrove creek. Estuarine,
Coastal and Shelf Science 52:753-68.
Feller, I.C., D.F. Whigham, K.L. McKee and C.E. Lovelock. 2002. Nitrogen limitation of growth
and nutrient dynamics in a disturbed mangrove forest, Indian River lagoon, Florida.
Gleason, S.M., K.C. Ewel and N. Hue. 2003. Soil redox conditions and plant-soil relationships in a
Micronesian mangrove forest. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 56:1065-74.
Gonneea, M.E., A. Paytan and J.A. Herrera-Silveira. 2004. Tracing organic matter sources and
carbon burial in mangrove sediments over the past 160 years. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf
Lugo, A.E. and S.C. Snedaker. 1974. The ecology of mangroves. Annual Review of Ecology and
Merritt, R.W. and K.W. Cummins. 1996. An introduction to aquatic insects of North America. Third
Edition. Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co., Dubuque, Iowa.
Pinay, G., L. Roques and A. Fabre. 1993. Spatial and temporal patterns in denitrification in a
riparian forest. Journal of Applied Ecology 30:581-91.
Rains, M.C. and J.F. Mount. 2002. Origin of shallow ground water in an alluvial aquifer as
determined by isotopic and geochemical procedures. Ground Water 40:552-63.
Rains, M.C., G.E. Fogg, T. Harter, R.A. Dahlgren, and R.J. Williamson. 2006. The role of perched
aquifers in hydrological connectivity and biogeochemical processes in vernal pool
landscapes, Central Valley, California. Hydrological Processes 20(5):1157-75.
Riviera-Monroy, V.H. and R.R. Twilley. 1996. The relative role of denitrification and
immobilization in the fate of inorganic nitrogen in mangrove sediments (Terminos Lagoon,
Mexico). Limnology and Oceanography 41:284-96.
Swarzenski, P.W., B. Burnett, C. Reich, H. Dulaiova, R. Martin and J. Meunier. 2004. Novel
geophysical and geochemical techniques to study submarine groundwater discharge in
Biscayne Bay, FL.
Vander Zanden, M.J. and J.B. Rasmussen. 2001. Variation in delta N-15 and delta C-13 trophic
fractionation: Implications for aquatic food web studies. Limnology and Oceanography 46:2061-
EXPEDITION PACKING CHECKLIST
This Expedition Briefing
Photocopies of your passport, flight itinerary and credit cards in case the originals are lost
or stolen; the copies should be packed separately from the original documents
Visa and/or passport (if necessary)
Certification of inoculation (if necessary)
Clothing/Footwear for Fieldwork
Lightweight, quick-drying, long-sleeved shirts
Lightweight, quick-drying pants (one pair)
Quick-drying shorts for the optional kayaking and snorkel sessions
Synthetic fiber t-shirt (polypro, capilene, etc.) for the optional kayaking and snorkel sessions
Well worn-in and comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots
Sun hat with a wide brim or visor
Clothing/Footwear for Leisure
Beach footwear (e.g. flip-flops)
One set of clothing to keep clean for free time/end of expedition
Drybag or plastic sealable bags (e.g. Ziploc) for protecting equipment such as camera from
dust, humidity, and water
Water bottle able to hold at least one liter
Sunscreen lotion with SPF 35 or higher
Insect repellent spray
Bedding and Bathing
Teams I, II and V (Camping Teams)
Lightweight sleeping bag
Teams III and IV (Bungalow Teams)
Light blanket (optional)
Personal toiletries (biodegradable soaps and shampoos are recommended)
Antibacterial wipes or lotion (good for “washing” hands while in the field)
Personal First Aid kit (e.g. anti-diarrhea pills, antibiotics, antiseptic, itch-relief, pain reliever,
bandages, blister covers, etc.) and personal medications
Headlamp or flashlight/torch with extra batteries and extra bulb
Spending money (US$200-300 exchanged to Mexican pesos is recommended)
Camera, film/memory card(s), extra camera battery
Binoculars (some are available at the research site)
Some duct tape (always handy, though a whole roll is not necessary)
Snorkeling gear if you prefer to use your own (only two sets are available onsite)
Field guide to Mexican birds (Peterson’s is recommended – see Section 13)
Earplugs (useful for blocking out noise while sleeping)
Books, journal, personal CD player with headphones, etc. for free time